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Using to Cli-Fi to Engage Students on Sustainability

By Sharon Chen
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More and more, universities and colleges are incorporating climate change awareness into their curricula. One way that higher ed is doing this is through cli-fi, or climate change fiction; this genre incorporates elements of science fiction; is often set in a post-disaster, apocalyptic time; and reflect the underlying theme of climate change. Examples include Do Androids Dream of Sheep? (the basis for the movie Bladerunner) and the film The Day After Tomorrow. Cli-fi is an engaging way to introduce students to concepts of climate change, and to encourage them to think about ways that we are impacting our world and how we can take climate action. 

By using cli-fi as a teaching tool, higher ed can reach out to students for whom climate and sustainability may not be an educational focus – for instance, literature courses can use cli-fi to engage students on sustainability issues that may seem more typical of science courses. By using different tools to address climate change, we can inspire students to take bold, transformative climate action. 

‘Cli-fi’ and the incorporation of climate change/global warming into college curricula

Dave Huber | The College Fix | January 30, 2016

It’s not mandatory –yet — but the University of California-Irvine is offering faculty up to $1,200 in “incentives” to attend a workshop (and follow-up) on how to incorporate “climate change and/or sustainability concepts into their courses.”

“The overall goal of this curriculum program,”the UCI Sustainability website says, “is to boost climate change/sustainability education at UCI, especially targeting those students for whom climate and sustainability may not be a focus.”

The College Fix received a tip from a source at UC-Irvine which offered suggestions on how to do just that, in this case for an English-related course.

The ideas included making use of “appropriate” vocabulary and readings since, after all, the goal of the program is to make sure all students on campus are reached.

Naturally, I was left wondering: Would it be acceptable to utilize vocabulary and readings (and writing assignments) that are skeptical of the conventional climate wisdom? Skeptical of current methods of sustainability?

This comes at a time when the genre of climate fiction, or “cli-fi,” is becoming rather popular in pedagogy, despite it having been around for decades.

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